Portland, Oregon: 3 Days for Family with 3 Kids

Three boys and luggage, loaded in the Toyota minivan!

Spring Break is coming up. We live in Seattle, so a 3-day budget road trip to Portland, Oregon is easy. No airplane expense or hassles required.

The picture to the right shows the 11-year olds in the middle seats, ready to spot landmarks, and the 15-year old in the back, ‘plugged-in’.

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New tv comedy: Portlandia
I’m thinking about Portland lately because of the buzz around here regarding a new comedy tv show, Portlandia, co-created by Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen. The ‘ABOUT‘ page of the new show’s website says Portland has “joyous eccentricities”. Love that term!

Here is a clip where the creators explain their take on the city.


Spring Break
Last spring, we spent three nights in Portland, which is a three hour drive from Seattle. (I just noticed how many times I’ve typed the word ‘three’. Three kids, three hours, three nights. A totally unplanned coincidence. Continuing on now…) Set along the wide Willamette River, Portland is beautiful, friendly, urban, laid back, and when we were there, rainy.

Getting there
During the trip planning stage, I did investigate taking the Amtrak train, but wow, for a family of 5 it is $300 round trip, a bit less for AAA members. Whereas, the cost of gas for the drive in our minivan, according to the AAA fuel cost calculator webpage is just $60 or so, round trip.

Added to either transportation mode, train or car, is the cost of many munchies. With kids in the 11-to-15 age range, we could easily go three hours without eating. But buying special snacks sure makes any trip more fun. The kids seem to remember vacations in relation to what they ate, and they especially like being able to pick out their own (special occasions only!) junk food item at a gas station mini-mart or truck stop.

(Helpful Hint: Do try truck stops when on a road trip. Hubby had the idea to buy gas at a large interstate truck stop — boy, was it nice! It has larger, super clean bathrooms, and lots of munchies and good gas prices. It also had wide driveway entries and exits, and was close to the freeway for easy maneuvering. We’ve since tried a couple more truck stops while on other trips, and had similar positive experiences.)

Hotel for Family of 5

La Quinta room for 5, with a rollaway bed in the middle.

Our Portland hotel of choice was the La Quinta, near the Convention Center. It allows a family of 5 in one standard room, even allowing the entry of 2 adults and 3 children on the online reservation page. On Hotels.com we got a great deal, with 2 Queen beds, for $100 per night, including tax. The hotel can provide a rollaway, has free breakfast, free wireless internet, and free parking. (The La Quinta is now a Quality Inn. Compare prices and read reviews about the Quality Inn at TripAdvisor

The room was not musty, the beds were comfy, and we didn’t feel overly crowded. The kids enjoyed the pool all to themselves a couple times. They reported that the water could be warmer, but it was warm enough to jump in and stay in for lengthy swims. The wireless worked great. The staff was friendly.

Raincoats and umbrellas – glad to be out of the rain!

(If we had taken the train, we would not have needed free parking, and perhaps could have selected a hotel closer to downtown to decrease the duration of our public transportation trips. But the bus and light rail cars are so frequent, speedy, and clean that the rides to and from downtown were no trouble, and quite pleasant.)

One unfortunate thing: we were out and about so much each day that we never got to taste the hotel’s complimentary fresh baked cookies in the evenings. We did eat breakfast each day, though! The breakfast room was small, but we had no problem getting a table with enough chairs. There were two make-it-yourself waffle makers, cereal, biscuits & gravy, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, apples, bananas, English muffins, bagels, coffee, juice, tea, and milk.


A Starbucks and a Red Robin restaurant, among others, are in walking distance. The La Quinta front desk provided a map of surrounding streets with marked restaurants and coffee shops.

Sandy Nielsen



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